|Posted on December 26, 2017 at 4:10 AM|
Ribbon of white leaves
whips from blanketed bush.
Winter blows last life into garden
where squirrel forages in evergreens,
magpie jumps up and down on deserted greenhouse,
ringed dove sips from mirrored birdbath,
hedge sparrow hops in between bowing plants
chased by belligerent blackbird,
white snow-feather flashing in his tail.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Earth Love – Issue 30 Feb 2009
(photo of blackbird with white tail & wing feather)
|Posted on October 28, 2017 at 6:40 AM|
My Tribute to My Lovely Sister, Alison read by me at her funeral on 24th October 2017
Alison was my lovely big older sister. When we were young she liked to look after me. She was always the well-behaved one & I was the naughty one. She did very well at school. When we moved to Woodthorpe in 1957, we attended Arno Vale Junior School and then Arnold High School where Alison became Head Girl. She also got a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Guiding.
‘Alison & I on holiday at Bexhill-on-Sea 1959'
We had a lovely childhood in Woodthorpe with my mother, Marjorie and my father, Reg Gath. Behind our house on Coningsby Gardens East, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill Fields. Now it is all built upon and called Longacre, but then it was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries and wild flowers, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
Alison left Nottingham to go to a Teacher Training College in Manchester and became a Deputy Head Teacher in Domestic Science. Sadly my lovely father died from leukaemia in 1970. Alison married Keith and had one son, Alexander, whom she loved very much. Unfortunately, the marriage broke down. Alison became very distressed and returned to Nottingham (after being in Australia for a year) where she stayed with my lovely mother, Marjorie. Ian and I saw a lot of her and also of Alexander then, when he came to stay in the holidays.
Eventually my mother had to move into a Warden-aided flat in 2000 & Alison went to a secure flat complex in Arnold. I sometimes bumped into her in Arnold and had a chat with her, but she never wanted to meet up. She became more and more reclusive and shunned contact with people she knew. This last year Alison became very ill and was in and out of hospital and she passed away on 7th October.
I am so sad at the death of my older sister, Alison, and always think of her with love & affection. I am a Christian, albeit an unconventional one, but I firmly believe Alison is in Heaven with God and his Angels, surrounded by love and people who love her, being healed of her illnesses. I send her my love and prayers every day.
Years ago, when Alison was very upset and depressed, I sent her a card with a blessing inside, which she said comforted her very much. I ended my tribute to Alison with the same ancient Jewish Old Testament blessing,
“The Lord bless you & keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you & be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you,
And give you Peace.”
“Bless You, Alison.”
Vivien Steels 12.10.17
My Lovely Sister, Alison
1st January 1950 - 7th October 2017
|Posted on October 14, 2017 at 10:25 AM|
My Fairy Garden
I have recently made a fairy garden in a wooden plant box, which sits on a window sill in my conservatory. They are such fun to make. I am hoping to make a bigger one outside in our garden, though we have some very naughty squirrels, who I think would dig it up!!
|Posted on September 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM|
I have just read Steve Jamieson's wonderful book ‘Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog’ (published by Pan Macmillan) and I am just recovering from being in floods of tears at the end. I felt so much for Steve, the former Head Lifeguard on Sennen Beach in Cornwall. I know that awful heartbreak when a much loved animal and companion dies. He had such a strong bond with Bilbo and was with him every day. I am an inveterate animal lover and have cats and rabbits as pets, but I love dogs too. At the moment we have a lovely cat called Mittens, who is 11 years old. My beautiful rabbit, Shadow, died 2 years ago.
In September 2008, my husband, Ian, and I visited Cornwall and went to Sennen Beach. I had heard all about Bilbo and went up to the Lifeguard Station where Bilbo was standing. As I neared the platform he was sitting on, I asked if I could stroke him and take a photo of him. He moved forward and gently touched noses with me!! Then I took some photos of him. This is one I took of him when Bilbo would have been about 5.
Bilbo made such an impact on me at the time and reading this book was so enlightening and enjoyable (albeit very sad at the end). I am now considering owning a Newfoundland in the future. I am hoping that my future dog will become a 'Pets as Therapy' dog, so I can take him, or her, into care homes, hospitals and hospices, enabling people to enjoy the wonderful healing contact that an animal brings.
by Vivien Steels
|Posted on July 28, 2017 at 3:00 AM|
Getting Older is...
caring for those before you,
caring for those after you.
Feeling needed, for meals,
for advice, for money,
so the slow drip of time,
wearing away your face
into that of your mother’s,
eases you onto the path
whereby you wear your skin
like an evening dress –
glittering with experience.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Reflections (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
|Posted on June 23, 2017 at 4:00 AM|
I have included this poem I wrote in 2002, because I was watching '50 Years of Gardeners' World Live' at the NEC Birmingham on television and there was a sequence about gardening through the decades, which my poem tried/tries to evoke. It is illustrated with a picture I painted of a corner of our garden in early summer painted in watercolour, acrylic and pen and ink.
50 Year Plot
Simple strip of lawn parallel to washing line
hosts birdbath bordered by rockery
restructured with soil from pond, below.
Paddling pool decorates grass kept weedfree
with shedful of chemical warfare,
as holidays are spent deck-chaired, fenced in.
Crazy paving shifts its mad design
to slab patios where recliners and parasols,
gaudy as daisies, mimic the Mediterranean package
as summer tries to erupt in Britain.
Our dream garden – a fern-green forest to worship,
emerges in terraces sloping in waves
down to blue, iris-fringed water.
Suburbia grows spikes of heathers and conifers,
low maintenance, indelible colour and height for all seasons,
while travel inspires natural groves,
wildernesses, seas of grasses, wildlife havens
to clash with rows of formality
and pop-art sculptures branching out
from unexpected pastures.
Cottage garden is cornered by beehive compost bin,
confusing bees drawn by scent and colour from butterfly border
linking loveseat under rose-entwined arbour
with avenue of borders overflowing drifts of perennials
and pergola clothed with clinging clematis
beyond stream singing its aria.
Makeover requires decking spreading its gangplanks
through vista to distant wild meadow,
set off by pebbles, palms and Arabian pots hosting trees.
Raised beds laugh with vegetables interspersed with herbs
behind trellis, painted blue, embroidering boundaries.
Conservatory - all blinds, designer furniture and mirrors -
becomes the stargate between house and garden.
2000 and Beyond
Gazebo winks at barbecue entertaining flames
beyond which water feature parasols its fountain
while patio heaters, sparking with avenues of light,
reveal time and space as precious commodities
to be bought and sold in plots
by the highest bidder.
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Summer 2000, WRITE-AWAY Special Edition – January 2003,
*PROMISE* - first collection of published poems/colour illustrations designed/printed by Vivien Steels/Vivi*Press – June 2003
& IMAGENATION Vol 6 – Jan 2004
Illustrated with 'Our Garden - Early Summer' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on April 17, 2017 at 6:05 AM|
cherry blossom falls
filling sky with confetti
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Spring 2002
Illustrated with 'Spring Blossom' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:55 AM|
sky – grey cardboard
earth – frosted brown
trees – bare branches
grass – dank tangle
wind – ice shards
room – soft lights
windows – green leaves
fire – living flames
rug – sheep’s wool
vase – golden stars
© Vivien Steels
Published in PANDA 17 – January 2004
Illustrated with 'Winter Forsythia' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:45 AM|
New Year's Moon
whole tablet of silver ~
wakes my bed,
draws me to a land outside,
and sprinkles my body
Crystal chips of stars
wink at me
while my body-warmth
rises like incense
into the half-lit sky
so blue, so vast;
an ocean of planets
Climbing stairs back to sleep,
meeting warmth again on the landing,
I fall back into soft white sheets
holding their drowsy heat,
until my limbs sing too loud
and long for the cool
of the New Year’s moon
waxing full onto
a watchful garden
travelling to foreign fields
cast in alien shadows.
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:40 AM|
REVIEW FOR NEW POETRY BOOK
*Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees* by Vivien Steels
Review by Patricia Beeton
“I have just read your new book of poems ‘Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees’. What a lovely collection of poems they are. The poems are a pleasure to read. Your words show a heartfelt, philosophical understanding of all aspects of nature and human emotion. Reading your poem 'Honey, about your pet rabbit, brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely tribute to him and a recognisable mixture of emotions for all of us who have lost a beloved pet. When I started to read your poem 'Everlasting' it instantly reminded me of my mother. Sweet peas were her favourite flower and whenever they are seen or mentioned I see her, so it was funny to realise as I read your poem that you too are reminded of your mother. You not only produce such lovely words, but are able to illustrate them with such beautiful artwork.”
'Stonechat on Gorse' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:20 AM|
This is the cover of my latest seventh collection of published nature-inspired poems with artwork, photographs and graphics. It can be bought via my Vivi*Press Poetry page on my 'Talking Paint' website @ http://www.talkingpaint.co.uk or get in touch via the Contact page of this website.
I do hope you like it.
|Posted on December 20, 2016 at 2:00 AM|
This is a larger view of the cover illustration for my new illustrated poetry book, 'Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees'. It was painted from the kitchen window of our last house when I was recovering from an operation. You can see I am looking through the ornaments/pots on the kitchen window sill and at the top is the blind with a cord hanging down through the painting. For the book illustration I have added certain graphics, including a bee, butterflies, a goldfish, a hedgehog, a bird, watering can, two fountains and a lookalike, superimposed cat over my cat, Miffy, who can be seen sitting on the edge of the pond. As it was painted in the summertime, you can see that the greenhouse is full of tomato plants and the lawn looks like it is quite long and needs mowing. Whenever I look at this painting which hangs in our lounge, I am transported back to the late 80s and although it was started in 1989, I didn't actually complete it until 1999.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 4:35 AM|
Into The Past
The Auckland Guest House green and cream
Set within my childhood dream,
Rope-swing falls from towering tree,
Lawn, coloured mallets, balls and croquet.
Miss Sammy, half-Persian, half-Siamese,
Loves a cuddle, loves strong cheese.
Bess, black Labrador with solemn face
Waddles in dining room from place to place
For titbits, gravy, crumbs of cake.
She waddles out still on the make.
Room is airy, walls slope away.
I wonder what we’ll do today?
Garden, breakfast, piano, beach then swim.
My Dad is funny; I play with him
Amongst the waves, silvery-blue and winking,
My rubber ring and his arms stop me sinking.
Ice cream call – Split or 99?
I don’t mind – the one without sand is mine!
We eat our picnic on the beach
Sandwiches, pasties, fresh ripe peach.
My arms are brown, legs are too,
Dad is red, swimming trunks blue.
We wander back to the Lovell’s house
To wash and dress to be ready for tea.
Or is it dinner? My dress feels fussy
After shorts and tee-shirt by the sea.
Evening falls soft as dust.
We all dress up, the show’s a must.
We send a box round finally,
The guests cough up – it’s for charity.
Bedtime comes, the stars appear.
It’s bath, then bed –
Hope we come here next year.
© Vivien Steels
Published in REFLECTIONS: A COLLECTION OF POETRY (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
Our favourite holidays were spent in Bexhill-on-Sea at the Auckland Guest House run by Mr and Mrs Lovell. We had many happy family holidays there in the 1960s with my mother and father and my sister, Alison. I wrote this poem about one holiday there in 1961, which refers to Miss Sammy, the half-Persian, half-Siamese cat I loved, whose photograph is below.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 3:55 AM|
My Semi-Suburban Country Childhood
Although I was brought up in a relatively new suburban area called Woodthorpe about four miles from the centre of Nottingham, I felt as if I lived in the country. The road in front of our house was a terracotta clay track with grassy verges and convenient humps – ideal when cycling or roller-skating – and there was a deep crater at the bottom of the road, which was euphemistically called ‘Coningsby Gardens East’* (there was no West). After a downpour it filled with red, cloudy water to a depth that covered the tops of your Wellingtons, when you floated your boat on it.
Opposite our house was a piece of lush, green wasteground covered in wild flowers and a large, fallen tree trunk called ‘The Log’, used as a meeting place for the groups of children, who arranged to play there. When this land eventually began to be used for building houses by a local property developer, we used the foundations of the new buildings as playgrounds. Planks of wood balanced across low walls provided splendid make-shift see-saws and we devised games based on hopscotch, which utilised the different, mapped-out rooms of the house-to-be.
Behind our house, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. Here was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
I knew the two girls, who used to help look after the horses. Rosamund, the youngest, said that I could ride them if I wanted to, as she knew I was an animal lover. I rode one large chestnut horse and thinking I had mastered that in half an hour, I decided to try cantering bareback, circus-style on a smaller, black horse and, yes, I fell off and broke my arm badly at the elbow.
Breckhill Fields stretched out like a country all of its own, changing its customs with the turn of time. In winter (my favourite season) after a heavy snowfall, everyone from roundabout would emerge wrapped in woolly hats, scarves and gloves pulling their sledges, which ranged from tin trays to the most sophisticated pine toboggans. The man next door, Mr Fenn, made me a sledge – a simple, wooden affair with a rope handle but to me it was lovely. I used to conscientiously wax the metal runners made from piping with a candle and it really did speed down the numerous slopes including the notorious ‘Death Track’. This was the longest, steepest and most dangerous track, as it ended in a line of trees and a cut-off tree trunk, so you had to be very careful to swerve out of the way, if you could not stop. One boy died from head injuries after he failed to stop and that is how the run got its name.
Autumn brought a crop of delicious wild blackberries, raspberries and elderberries. I used to go picking with my own small gardening trug and kept going back for refills, returning home with hands and lips stained magenta, having eaten nearly as much as I collected. Mr Fenn also had a substantial collection of damson trees, from which he gave us baskets of fruit to be made into deep purple jam.
In summer the wild flowers flourished as on meadowland and I was a keen naturalist. I owned books on birds, animals, insects and wildflowers and when not being a Red Indian in a wigwam (I always took the Indian’s side), I would wonder at and try to identify the profusion of wildlife around me.
I loved animals and for my eighth birthday my father bought me a beautiful, soft-grey Chinchilla rabbit, which we chose from a stall on the old, open Nottingham Market on Huntingdon Street. Hoppy was the rabbit that came up and nudged my hand as if to say ‘Please choose me.’ He had the run of the garden and the house, but sometimes would set off on adventures and was once seen hot-pawing it up to Breckhill Fields, doing daring zig-zags and leaps to chase off the ensuing dog from down the road. We rescued him and he was none the worse for his ‘dicing with death’. (Read Hoppy's full story on ‘Talking Paint’ @ http://viviensteels.webs.com/mypetsplace.htm)
Now the area is quite built up. Gone is the wasteground and ‘The Log’ and Breckhill Fields, my early experience of the countryside, is smothered with houses and called ‘Long Acre’.
© Vivien Steels
A smaller, much-edited version of this article appeared in the Basford Bystander 177 - August/September 2016
* Just as a point of interest, Coningsby Gardens East was originally part of the land on which Swinehouse Farm and its orchard, which contained damson trees, formerly existed. Swinehouse Farm is mentioned by D H Lawrence in his book ‘Sons and Lovers’. In the book he (Paul Morel) walks down from Mapperley Plains (at the top of Breckhill Fields) to see Miriam Leivers at the farm and she taught in West Bridgford, Nottingham.
Below is a black and white picture postcard photograph from ARNOLD – in old picture postcards by Ken Negus (‘YESTERDAY’S NOTTINGHAMSHIRE’ series no: 14 - 1991). It was taken at about 1900 with the photographers back to Mapperley Plains with Breckhill Road to the left out of the picture. Long Acre approximates to the footpath as does Coningsby Gardens East and Coningsby Road, the hedge being the boundary of Melbury Road. This area was know as Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. You can make out the farm below to the left, which would approximate to the bottom of Coningsby Gardens East.
|Posted on August 22, 2016 at 6:20 AM|
Twisted church spire watches
over brown ridged field
where snow, soft as fur,
nestles in furrows like leverets.
Ink black trees light up from behind
with gold/orange sunset.
Cold kisses my face
leaving rosy imprints.
The road, white with salty sheen,
sings under racing car,
as day sinks under banks
of snow-swollen clouds.
© Vivien Steels
Published in THE GREAT BRITISH WRITE-OFF – ACROSS ENGLAND - Anthology [Forward Poetry Press] – November 2015
I've included this wintry poem as it was written on the way home from Sunday lunch at Langar Hall (see last post below).
|Posted on July 7, 2016 at 7:55 PM|
Imogen Skirving, owner of Langar Hall Country House Hotel in Nottinghamshire, was killed recently while on holiday in Menorca. Imogen was an absolutely special and wonderfully unique person, who made you feel special. She always made sure you were looked after at Langar Hall and was so interesting to talk with. Ian and I go every few weeks for Sunday Lunch at Langar Hall and we loved Imogen, her staff and the whole atmosphere created there. Nothing was too much trouble. We are so very upset and will miss her dreadfully. As someone pointed out, it will not be the same without her. I bought her wonderful book, 'The Reluctant Restaurateur', which she personally signed for me and which I shall treasure. Ian and I are thinking of her staff and all her family at this terribly sad time. I wrote this poem for Imogen not long after hearing about her death.
You never know
how much you will miss someone
until they leave this life
with sunlit reveries
brings ease of mind
as memories tiptoe
up tree-lined paths
past sheep, cotton-wool white
in green-dappled fields
wrapping arms round
an orange-washed hall
where dreams of people
sleep and eat
in gilded rooms
floating amongst the tables
talking with friends
taking food orders
your kindness mixed with
like a good meal
your love of adventure
mixed with a sensibility
about who we are
giving hospitality to pilgrims
as they walk through
now walking into
your new life
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on May 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM|
The corner turned,
turquoise water overhung
with soft, green willow
surrounds the April nest
barricaded with branches
to make an inner island
of safety for Easter eggs;
green-white and so large,
to be turned to perfection
at unusual angles.
We counted seven cygnets that year.
flimsy yet watertight,
nibbled along with young weed,
riding under arch-angel wings.
The cob glides back.
Beaks touch, necks ‘S’
throwing down heart reflections
like white confetti.
Snake-skin feet stroke
cool blue water,
the corner turned
then out of view.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Green Vibrations Anthology (Peace & Freedom Press) - Winter 2003/04
Illustrated with 'Mute Swan Bowing' - original photograph by Vivi Steels
|Posted on March 26, 2016 at 5:10 AM|
of vermilion tulips
aiming to fire scarlet
into the sharp grey sky
of spring deferred
© Vivien Steels
Illustrated with 'Vermilion Tulips'
* * *
Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter
|Posted on March 11, 2016 at 3:20 AM|
Those Days ...
when the ward floor shone
like crystalline quartz
when beds had white envelope-
when perfumed flowers grew
in tall glass vases
when hygiene and cleanliness
were taken to degree level
when bed sores were
when nurses nursed patients
with love and compassion
when doctors came at
any time of day and night
when super bugs were
when patients recovered from
illnesses and operations
when water and food
when visitors were a
when healing and health
were targets to be met
when someone cared
in those days…
© Vivien Steels
I've included this poem I wrote recently as a homage to the past when hospitals were a different world overseen by Matrons, who had extremely high standards of cleanliness and patient care. It is so sad that such a brilliant healthcare system such as the NHS has been eroded over the years. Now Junior Doctors feel they can strike to achieve more money and what they say are better terms. All doctors have to take an oath, which originally was the Hippocratic Oath including the words "first, do no harm". The newer oath of 1964 does not include those words specifically. Instead it says, "I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm." I am sure this does not include striking for 48 hours resulting in the cancellation of thousands of operations...
|Posted on February 5, 2016 at 6:05 AM|
THE CULT OF CRUELTY IN THE NHS
I have been reading for years about the way older patients are treated in the NHS. But I know this from first-hand. About 6 years ago my mother spent nine months in hospitals and I feel the hospital system killed her. This is a condensed version of it.
My husband and I went to collect my lovely mother, who was 88. She had just had a minor operation to unblock some grafted veins in her legs. She was fine and really looking forward to getting back to her warden-aided flat where she lived a very independent life having moved from our family home in 2000.
But when we arrived she was writhing in agony on her bed. She had wanted to go to the toilet and needed help to get there. No one had responded to her bell, so she set off to the toilets on her own. While there she fell and broke her right hip. It is incredulous to me how many older patients fall and break their hips while in hospital and it is an utter disgrace that while supposedly being in a hospital and being cared-for, patients engender an often fatal fall.
I had to battle every day to get my mother the care she deserved. Nurses moaned about having to make her bed if she’d been restless and disturbed the blankets and sheets. One day I came to visit and she was lying flat on her back with a hospital gown up under her arms exposing a nappy-type pad. She was very distressed and shredding tissues in one hand. Male visitors were walking past. I raised the top of her bed pulled her gown down and made the bed around her. I collected and washed her nighties every day and there were several clean ones in her locker. I hunted down and found her lost glasses and slippers and false teeth (this was a daily occurrence). I pulled the curtains round and put a clean nightie and bed-jacket on. She gradually calmed down and we had a good chat. Then I went to see someone in charge. I was very angry and said how I felt my mother was NOT being treated with dignity and respect and she was not gaga, but a very much with-it lady who was normally very independent and active. How could they treat her like that?
After progressing quite well my mother was moved to a convalescent hospital where I visited nearly every day. I made sure my mother had a diary and photos of us to look at. My mother was making good progress but a large part of her care was missing. One day I visited I found her with her head down on her arms sitting at a table near her bed. She looked up when I came towards her. She looked totally bereft. “Life wouldn’t be worth living if it wasn’t for you,” she said. “Could you wash my feet for me? I think they smell.” I asked someone for a bowl and used the soap from the washbasin plus some hand towels and washed her feet for her. “You’re an angel,” she said smiling down at me. I combed her hair, bathed her eyes, found her glasses and her book.
She really perked up and after drying her feet off and putting her socks and slippers on, and a warm coat, I took her in her wheelchair to the lovely garden in the centre of the wards where there was a fishpond, ducks and a wooden bridge over it. I made her laugh by pushing her, rushing up and over the bridge and round the garden at a fast pace. We then had hot chocolate from the vending machine and sat with the sun on our faces and ducks at our feet.
Before the next time to visit I received a phone call. My mother had fallen and broken her left hip… I could not believe that this gross negligence had happened again. I went to collect her things then back to the hospital where she was down for an emergency operation. This went ahead and after the operation my mother’s character changed. I looked this up and found Hospital Delirium was a well-known phenomenon after general anaesthetics and prolonged stays in hospitals. The nursing staff on the new ward were angry with my mother about her temporary surly and unusual behaviour, which was understandable after two hip breaks and two general anaesthetics. But they didn’t seem to know what Hospital Delirium was and here was I, a lay-person, telling them about something they should know about. I did notice a few months later a notice about Hospital Delirium appeared on the ward wall.
I battled on visiting and making sure she received the care she should and trying to get her into the Nursing Home opposite her flat complex. One day stands out where I was visiting at a weekend. My mother was in terrible pain. I approached a nurse who said she was too busy, then shot into a ward where she joined her colleagues all standing round having a chat. Usually this was round the nurses’ station when patients would be ringing their bells and desperate for help while the staff on duty ignored them and carried on laughing and joking. I once stood to wait to speak to someone and was summarily ignored for over ten minutes…
I approached a doctor I saw in the corridor despairing about my mother’s pain. As I explained, this woman doctor laughed at me and started walking away from me as I was still asking for help. I have never felt so alone, so hopeless, so angry… her pain was never managed properly in hospital and I cannot believe in this day and age that pain relief isn’t effective. I asked if the Pain Management Team could see her and the day they came my mother’s notes had been misplaced and they couldn’t do anything effective.
I battled on to get my mother in to the Nursing Home. Eventually she was allowed to go but mustn’t walk on her hip for a few weeks as she had a slight hairline fracture of the right femur. I went to see the Sister at the Nursing Home to discuss her medicines and remember saying she was on a sleeping tablet nightly. My mother was so happy to be there after all those months in hospital and I greeted her as she arrived by ambulance. She had been telling all the ambulance crew about me!! I thought that things would improve.
But that first night was awful for her. The next day I was greeted by a lady who used to clean for her. “Your mother’s had a dreadful night and been shouting her head off and disturbing everyone.” I was so angry. Who was discussing my mother like this? The Matron of the Nursing Home and the man in charge of the warden-aided flats had been discussing my mother’s first night in the Nursing Home with other people. I thought this was most unprofessional – this should have been private. I found out that my mother had not been given her sleeping tablet in a mix-up over medication even though I had gone through this with the Sister earlier. When elderly people have sleeping tablets long-term and then aren’t given them they can get severe withdrawal symptoms, which is what my mother experienced. She had been left in complete darkness with the lamp turned off and my mother had been having terrible nightmares and crawling to the bottom of her bed. When it was discovered about the non-dispensing of sleeping tablets the Matron did apologise to me.
Being fiercely independent my mother found the Nursing Home community living quite difficult. Plus the night staff were stretched and never came when she rang the bell. Her washing was always lost. We had got my mother a mobile phone while in hospital and I rang her every night. My night-time talks with her at the Home revealed how unhappy she was. One evening she had wanted to go to the toilet. No one had come so she got off the bed and wandered to her bathroom herself. She fell and broke her right femur badly. I knew she would never recover from this.
The last time I saw my mother with her natural and cheery character had long gone. When we visited in hospital again one day she complained of terrible pain in her back and I was concerned she had a bed sore. On bringing this up with various staff, they all dismissed it, yet she developed a terrible Stage 1V bedsore at the base of her spine which caused awful pain. The femur had been reset but the wound wasn’t healing and my mother underwent the very painful treatments of debridement. Still the pain medication given wasn’t touching her pain levels.
As I walked the hospital corridors to get to my mother’s ward, I would always pray and ask God and the angels to be with me and I don’t think I could have carried on without this spiritual help. My husband was so supportive and picked me up each night after work and came up to see my mother too. We visited together at weekends.
One day I visited and her bed was empty. Where was she? Had she died? I panicked. No one had told me. She’d been moved to a side ward. Her agony continued and although I tried to see him, I never met her Consultant, but wrote to him about my concerns and spoke to him on the phone.
There were a few lovely staff who really seemed to care, but these were very much in minority and off-set by what I can only call a cult of cruelty in the NHS. Do these people who dish out this awful care realise they will be old and ill and vulnerable one day? What sort of treatment would they like then?
My mother died two days after my birthday. I had a phone call at 5.30am and burst into tears – tears of pain at what she’d suffered, tears of anger at some of her treatment, tears of relief she wasn’t suffering anymore, tears of abject grief that I wouldn’t see her anymore on this side of life.
My husband and I have said when the time comes we are adamant want to die at home in our own bed and if this shortens our life then so be it.